Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Instagram have become such a mainstay in our day-to-day lives that it’s hard to remember when we didn’t get most of our news and information from the Internet.
As these outlets have grown both in size and popularity, experts in niche subject matters have emerged. For example, BlogHer is the world’s largest conference for women content creators. And from that group has emerged another subset: the food influencer. For seven years, BlogHer has held the BlogHer Food Conference.
On a mission to learn more about what it means to be a food/nutrition influencer, I reached out to two fellow Boston University Health Communication graduates. Following are insights from Ayla Withee of Eat Simply and Alissa Rumsey of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition & Wellness Consulting.
- Do you consider yourself a food/nutrition “influencer”?
Both Ayla and Alissa strive to live up to the influencer moniker, with each boasting more than 500 Facebook likes and more than 1,000 Twitter followers. Ayla defines “influencers” as “someone who puts forth new ideas or has a unique take on an old idea, who questions the status quo, and is always critically thinking.“
- Is being an “influencer” something you anticipated when you started to build your online presence?
Ayla and Alissa share an experience to which many of us who share our work online can relate: neither knew how things would play out when they began their journey, and “it didn’t happen overnight,” says Alissa.
Ayla notes that she struggled at the beginning to find her own voice—another challenge many of us have faced. She adds that when she looks at her blog now, “there is definitely an evolution.“
- How do you measure your success?
When starting a blog, one of the most critical pieces of the puzzle that can easily be overlooked is how you will define success. Given that social media depends on people being, well, social, it’s not surprising that Alissa says that in addition to traditional analytics, she keeps tabs on engagement, including “how many people are commenting, liking, and retweeting.”
For Ayla, “success means reaching individuals with clear, useful information that makes them think about their lifestyle choices and ideally, make the changes that they need to make.” Her goal is to “be engaging and make people really think versus simply capitalizing on trends, fears, and purveying misinformation for blog traffic.“
- How did you decide to start blogging?
Like many of us who work within the communication sphere, taking that first step can be the hardest. Alissa began blogging when she realized there was a limit to the number of people she could reach on her own as a dietitian. She “saw how much farther of a reach” she could have by sharing content online, and because “starting a blog had been on [her] list for ages,” when she left her full-time job, she decided “to really commit to blogging and sharing content.”
Ayla, meanwhile, started her blog while getting her masters, and what “started as a small project” evolved into “a tremendous avenue for creativity.” She also realized that blogging could be a great marketing tool.
- How do you distinguish yourself from others with health/nutrition blogs?
Yet another challenge many health communicators face is getting our voice heard among all the many other voices out there. Alissa’s experience as a dietitian and a personal trainer, coupled with a background in exercise physiology along with nutrition, affords her a “unique perspective,” that she tries to work into her blog. Adding another dimension to her work, Alissa incorporates her love of travel into her blog, often including travel tips, her itinerary, and food recommendations.
Ayla sets herself apart by covering “a wide range of types of posts” from clinical topics to explanations of new research and recommendations to practical recipes. And in true health communicator fashion, Ayla uses her communication skills “to translate complex topics into relatable, useful information and create accessible recipes for everyday life.”
Editor’s note: I sincerely thank Alissa and Ayla for their time and thoughtful responses to my questions. Here’s to reading advice from them online for years to come!